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decriminalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 6, 2013

    Democrat Gov. (and NORML PAC recipient) Peter Shumlin today signed legislation into law eliminating criminal penalties for adults who possess personal use amounts of cannabis and/or hashish.

    “This change just makes common sense,” said Shumlin. “Our limited resources should be focused on reducing abuse and addiction of opiates like heroin and meth rather than cracking down on people for having very small amounts of marijuana.”

    The new law amends penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine) to a civil fine only — no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record. The law also decriminalizes possession of less than 5 grams of hashish.

    Vermont’s proposed law is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

    Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.

    Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (The laws in Colorado and Washington were enacted via voter initiative while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)

    Vermont’s new law takes effect on July 1, 2013.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 9, 2013

    Members of the Senate this week approved legislation to significantly reduce marijuana possession penalties. On Tuesday, Senators voted 24 to 6 in favor of a House measure that amends penalties for the possession of personal use amounts of marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia by a person 21 years of age or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine) to a civil fine only — no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record. House members had previously signed off on a slightly different version of the bill in April.

    House members must sign off on the Senate’s changes to the bill. It will then go to Democrat Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has publicly expressed support for liberalizing the state’s marijuana possession penalties.

    If signed into law, the measure will take effect on July 1, 2013.

    Vermont’s proposed law is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island, where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

    Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.

    Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (The laws in Colorado and Washington were enacted via voter initiative while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 26, 2013

    The federal government’s anti-drug efforts are inefficient and ineffective, according to a just released report issued by the Congressional watchdog agency, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

    As if we didn’t know.

    The GAO report assessed whether the Obama administration’s anti-drug strategies, as articulated by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (the ONDCP aka the Drug Czar’s office) in its 2010 National Drug Control Strategy report, have yet to achieve its stated goals.

    The answer? They haven’t.

    States the GAO:

    “The public health, social, and economic consequences of illicit drug use, coupled with the constrained fiscal environment of recent years, highlight the need to ensure that federal programs efficiently and effectively use their resources to address this problem. ONDCP has developed a 5-year Strategy to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences, but our analysis shows lack of progress toward achieving four of the Strategy’s five goals for which primary data are available.”

    In particular, the GAO criticized the administration for failing to adequately address rising levels of youth marijuana consumption. The GAO also rebuffed the ONDCP’s allegation that increased rates adolescent marijuana use are a result of the passage of statewide laws decriminalizing the plant or allowing for its therapeutic use.

    “Other factors, including state laws and changing attitudes and social norms regarding drugs, may also affect drug use. We examined studies on three of these other factors, which we refer to as societal factors, which may affect youth marijuana use. … The studies that assessed the effect of medical marijuana laws that met our review criteria found mixed results on effects of the laws on youth marijuana use. … [S]tudies that assessed the effect of marijuana decriminalization that met our review criteria found little to no effect of the laws on youth marijuana use.”

    You can read the full GAO report here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 29, 2013

    Legislation signed into law last year decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses takes effect on Monday, April 1.

    Presently, possessing cannabis in the Ocean State is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine. Starting Monday, the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 years or older is a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a maximum fine of $150 but no jail time, and no criminal record.

    Fifteen states have enacted similar decriminalization laws. Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana. (Colorado had previously decriminalized cannabis possession decades earlier, while Alaska’s legal protections were imposed by the state Supreme Court.)

    Similar decriminalization legislation is pending this year in nearly a dozen additional states, including Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.

    Lawmakers in several other states, including Maine, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, are considering separate legislation to legalize the adult consumption of cannabis and regulate its retail production and sale.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director March 28, 2013

    Written Testimony In Favor of Senate Bill 297
    To Be Heard By The Members of the House Judiciary Committee
    Thursday, March 28, 2013, at 1:00pm
    By Allen St. Pierre
    Executive Director
    National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

    I thank members of the Maryland House Committee on the Judiciary for considering Senate Bill 297, which proposes to in effect decriminalize small amounts of cannabis possessed by adults.

    NORML and its members in Maryland encourage this committee to agree with their senate colleagues that now is the right and proper time for Maryland to adopt a decriminalization enforcement policy for possession amounts of cannabis, and to join fifteen other states—and numerous large cities across the country such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Denver and Seattle—by adopting this cost-effective, time-saving, resource-stretching and law enforcement-friendly alternative public policy to the state’s current ‘arrest-n-prosecute’ policy for minor cannabis offenses (for non-medical use).

    Currently, well over one-third of the US population resides in states and cities that have adopted cannabis decriminalization, in some cases, decades ago, and to no discernible ill effects.

    The fifteen states with decriminalized cannabis enforcement laws, from west to east:

    Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.

    The Nixon-appointed ‘Shafer Commission’ strongly opined for cannabis decriminalization in 1972. Despite Mr. Nixon rejecting his own commission’s public policy recommendations, numerous states accepted the wisdom and guidance of the massive report, starting with Oregon in 1973, which became the first state to officially decriminalize possession amounts of cannabis for adults.

    With the ever-growing public sentiment nationwide in favor of substantive cannabis law reform measures, generally stated at…

    *75% in support for medical access

    *73% in support of decriminalization

    *50-52% in support of legalization (voters in CO and WA approved legalization ballot initiatives by 55% respectively in 2012)

    …Maryland legislators should adopt these popular public policy reforms, specifically, with the legislation approved by the senate at bar before them, Senate Bill 297. (more…)

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