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decriminalization

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate January 8, 2016

    map_leafThe new year marks a fresh slate and new beginnings for many and here at NORML it’s no different. The year 2016 is going to be monumental for marijuana law reform and we’re already starting to see an influx of marijuana law reform legislation being introduced around the country. In the coming days and weeks we’ll see a significant increase in the number of marijuana related activity so be sure to stay up to date on what YOU can do to help pass these reforms in your own communities.

    This week we’ve seen bills introduced in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia plus some exciting news in Massachusetts, Washington D.C., New York and Vermont. Keep reading below to find out what the latest is!

    State:

    Georgia:  Senate Bill 254 seeks to amend the state criminal code so that no marijuana possession offense may any longer be classified as a felony. Under current law, any marijuana possession offense involving more than one ounce of cannabis is classified as a felony offense, punishable by one year (mandatory) to up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Passage of SB 254 would reduce these offenses to misdemeanors. According to an analysis of arrest data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks sixth out of all US jurisdictions in total annual marijuana possession arrests and ninth in per capita possession arrests. To support SB 254, click here.

    House bill 722 seeks to amend state law to permit for the state-licensed cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.

    Under a 2015 law, qualifying patients are permitted to possess 20 ounces of infused cannabis oils containing not more than 5 percent THC and a equal or greater amount of CBD. However, the law provides no legal supply source for these products and, as a result, has failed to meet the needs of patients. House bill 722 would rectify this situation and impose other improvements, such as patient protection from job discrimination. To learn more about this measure, click here.

    Indiana: A Senate lawmaker has introduced legislation, SB 209, to protect qualified patients who consume cannabis under a physician’s written authorization.

    The measure, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Karen Tallian, will permit qualified patients — including patients with arthritis, migraine, PTSD, and seizures — to engage in cannabis therapy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted statewide provisions allowing patients access to cannabis therapy. Indiana patients deserve these same protections.

    For more information, please contact Indiana NORML here or visit their Facebook page here. To contact your lawmakers in Indiana to urge their support, click here.

    Massachusetts: Just a reminder that The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act of 2016 will be the subject of a hearing NEXT Wednesday, January 13, before the Judiciary Committee. This is your chance to speak before your lawmakers in support of legalization!legalization_poll

    The Act would regulate the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21. It also permits the home cultivation.

    For more information on next week’s legislative hearing, click here.

    New York: Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Thursday in the Empire state. To date, only eight of out of the state’s allotted 20 dispensaries are operational; they’re located in Manhattan, Westchester County, Kingston, Albany, two in Buffalo and two in the Finger Lakes region.

    Though the dispensaries are now be open to patients, due to the law’s unnecessary strict regulations only 51 patients in the state have qualified for access so far. Furthermore, the law only allows for non smokable forms of marijuana restricting access to capsules, liquids or oils — restrictions that NORML opposes and that unnecessarily limit patients choices..

    So far, about 150 doctors in New York have registered to be part of the program.

    Vermont: Governor Peter Shumlin made his annual state of the union speech yesterday and called upon lawmakers to pass pending legislation to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana by adults in the state.

    The Governor said, “I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right the Vermont way. Let’s do it together.”

    Vermont has long been considered a state that could be the first to legalize recreational marijuana legislatively.

    To contact your lawmakers and urge their support for legalization click here.

    Virginia: Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has reintroduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession offenses.

    Senate bill 104  eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses, replacing them with civil fine-only penalties — no arrest and no criminal record.thumbs_up

    Presently, Virginia ranks among the top ten states in annual marijuana possession arrests. In fact, the number of Virginians arrested for violating the state’s marijuana possession laws increased 76 percent between the years 2003 and 2014, at a time when arrests for similar violations were falling nationwide. Clearly there is a need for reform in the Old Dominion state. To this end, the Virginia chapters of NORML will be holding their State Lobby day to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of SB 104.

    To find out more information about this legislation click here and for info on the upcoming lobby day you can contact Virginia NORML here or visit their Facebook page here.

    Washington DC: When marijuana possession was legalized in DC via voter initiative in 2014, Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly asked the City Council to bar marijuana smoking at nightclubs, private clubs and virtually any other businesses licensed by the city. But on Tuesday the subject was revisited when City Council voted to legalize the smoking of marijuana at certain rooftop bars and sidewalk cafes, where cigarette smoking is currently permitted, and in private clubs. However, 30 minutes later, reversed itself, extending the current ban for an additional 90 days.

    The flip flop was again the result of Mayor Bowser’s influence. The City Council has to take permanent action on this soon so we’ll be meeting with the Mayor’s office in the coming weeks to ensure a public use provision is considered with accompanying regulations and provisions for responsible use.

    takeactionban

    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

     

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate December 18, 2015

    christmas-baubles-clipartWith the holidays around the corner, there is plenty to celebrate in regard to marijuana law reform successes! Congress unveiled their 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the government through next year which included several marijuana measures and we’ve seen a number of state and municipal measures take hold as well. Keep reading to see if your state is moving ahead in reforming their marijuana laws!

    Federal: In last week’s Legislative Round Up, we covered five distinct marijuana provisions that lawmakers sought to include in the final draft of the 2016 spending bill.

    We now know that two of these provisions have been included in the omnibus appropriations bill. One measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The other measure prevents the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.

    Both measures were initially passed by Congress in 2015, but required reauthorization to extend into 2016.

    To read more about this legislation click here.

    State:

    Vermont: The sponsor has unveiled the bill that will be introduced in the state’s next legislative session to legalize and regulate the adult use, production and sale of cannabis. Once formally
    introduced, the bill will head to the Senate Judiciary committee for its first consideration.legalization_poll

    The 41 page bill allows for retail outlets, lounges, and personal cultivation. Taxes and fees are not
    included in the bill language and will be covered when the bill is considered in the Senate Finance Committee.

    You can read more about the legislation here and write your lawmakers, urging their support here.

    Kentucky: Legislation to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana, The ‘Cannabis Freedom Act, has been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session.

    The legislation allows adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, cultivate up to five cannabis plants, store excess cannabis lawfully grown for personal use at the location where it was cultivated; or transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another person age 21 or older without remuneration.

    In a prepared statement, the bill’s sponsor said: “Too many Kentuckians have had their lives stymied with criminal records as a result of nonviolent marijuana convictions. That is wrong. It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis.”

    Contact your lawmakers in Kentucky and encourage them to support this measure here!

    Delaware: Legislation signed into law last June decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses took effect at midnight this morning in the state of Delaware.

    House Bill 39 reclassifies the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by those age 21 and over from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record, to a
    thumbs_upcivil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record. (Those between the ages of 18 and 21 may face criminal charges, but only if it is their second or subsequent offense.)

    The new law also amends the personal possession of marijuana paraphernalia from a criminal to a civil violation. Public use of the substance, as well as marijuana possession while inside a vehicle, remain classified as misdemeanors.

    Municipal:

    Pittsburgh (PA): An ordinance, proposed by Councilman Daniel Lavelle,  which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana passed a preliminary vote in City Council on Wednesday.

    The measure would allow police to seize the drugs and issue a $100 fine as long as a person had less than 30 grams of marijuana — about an ounce. People could have about eight grams of hash.

    A final vote is scheduled for this upcoming Monday. You can contact your City Council district here to urge their support for this measure.

    Palm Beach County (FL): With a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday, Palm Beach County decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Law enforcement can now give offenders a $100 fine or the option of 10 hours of community service instead of arrest. The ordinance only covers offenders 18 and over, and an offender can receive a maximum of two citations.

    This vote comes after nearby cities West Palm Beach and Miami Beach also chose to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.


    takeactionban

    Additional information for these and other pending legislative measures may be found at our #TakeAction Center!

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 3, 2015

    11863500_10154119506728032_5435735672135739216_nState and Local

    Excitement filled the air at this year’s Boston Freedom Rally as Massachusetts voters consider two initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Bay State Repeal are both working to collect the signatures needed to qualify for next November’s ballot.

    Bay State Repeal, a measure backed by MassCann NORML was a big hit at the Freedom Rally

    California NORML’s partnership with ReformCA will guarantee responsible marijuana consumers an opportunity to have their voices heard as stakeholders continue to weigh in on the various initiatives currently being proposed.

    California NORML partners in ReformCA 2016 initiative effort

    With legalization on this November’s ballot, Ohioans will have a chance to not just end the arrest of thousands of marijuana consumers, they’ll be able to bring relief to people seeking the medicinal benefits of marijuana to treat their ailments.

    Eleanor Ahrens, president and founding member of Southeast Ohio NORML awaits relief

    Since July, Florida NORML has seen a lot of success with marijuana decriminalization efforts. From Miami-Dade County, to municipalities such as Hallandale Beach and Miami Beach, local governments have embraced this current trend. Several other cities are looking to take action in the months ahead.

    Florida NORML pushes local reforms ahead of 2016 legalization efforts

    Dan Viets, executive director of Missouri NORML and member of NORML’s National Board of Directors, fought hard to bring justice to Jeff Mizanskey and his family. Mr. Mizanskey is scheduled to speak at Springfield NORML’s next meeting on Wednesday, October 7, 2015. Click here for more details!

    Missouri man freed after 21 years in prison for marijuana

    Activists with Northwest Ohio NORML earned the support of each of Toledo’s 24 wards to pass an ordinance aimed at eliminating penalties for possessing up to 200 grams of marijuana. Lawmakers are currently meeting to discuss the implementation of the new law.

    Northwest Ohio NORML spearheaded a successful effort to weaken local pot laws

    Federal

    Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, took a minute to share his thoughts on the peculiar progression of America’s marijuana laws. From the early acceptance of medical marijuana in the west and the legalization of recreational marijuana in four states, to a pending ballot initiative in Ohio, it’s obvious American’s are ready to end the the government’s senseless war against marijuana consumers.

    Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, reflects on America’s evolving marijuana laws

    In a recent interview, Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, commended the State of Oregon for their rollout of their new recreational marijuana program. He attributes the success to state regulators paying close attention to the implementation of similar laws in other states.

    Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML discusses Oregon’s rollout of legal marijuana  

    New Chapter Spotlight

    Denver NORML recently held their first public meeting to discuss the need for consumer advocacy in a post-legalization environment. Close to twenty-five marijuana consumers packed the room to show their support and share a few concerns about pesticides, social use and high taxes.

    Denver NORML is off to a great start

    Events

    DFW NORML marijuana march, October 17, Dallas

    Virginia NORML fall conference, October 17, Richmond

    NORML of Waco Halloween party, October 30, Waco

    Missouri NORML fall conference, November 7, St. Louis

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 16, 2015

    vote_keyboardBy a margin of over 2 to 1, voters in Toledo, Ohio yesterday approved a municipal ballot measure removing criminal and civil penalties associated with minor marijuana possession offenses. The vote took place during a special city election.

    Ballot Issue 1, the “Sensible Marijuana Ordinance,” amends the city’s municipal code to eliminate the threat of jail or fines for those found within city limits to be in the possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana. The measure also prohibits the city from suspending one’s license as a punishment for violating marijuana possession laws.

    Under Ohio law, any conviction for possession of a controlled substance is subject to driver’s license revocation for no less than 6 months and no more than 5 years.

    A summary of the ordinance is available here.

    Despite the measure’s popularity, both the city’s mayor and police chief have indicated their intent to charge minor marijuana offenders under the Ohio Revised Code rather than under the local ordinance. State law classifies classifies the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis as a minor criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $150. Marijuana possession offenses involving more than 100 grams but less than 200 grams are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

    Toledo is the fourth largest city in Ohio.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate August 24, 2015

    thumbs_upLocal governments in Florida are taking marijuana law reform into their own hands by adopting marijuana decriminalization ordinances as an alternative to more severe state sanctions.

    We first wrote about this trend in July when Florida’s largest county, Miami-Dade, passed an ordinance allowing local law enforcement to treat marijuana possession offenses involving 20 grams or less as a civil infraction, punishable by a $100 fine.

    Many other communities have followed suit. City commissioners in Miami Beach imposed a similar policy in July; authorities in Hallandale Beach acted likewise last week. 

    Key West City City officials are poised to finalize a similar measure in September while lawmakers in Palm Beach County are considering taking similar action. Decriminalization is also gaining momentum among lawmakers in the city of St. Petersburg.

    These changes to local laws are especially significant in Florida, where state lawmakers have failed to even consider amending its archaic and overly punitive marijuana policies. Consequently, Florida possesses the third highest annual marijuana possession arrest total (roughly 60,000 arrests per year) in the nation.

    But that may soon change. Advocates, including Florida NORML, are pushing  a 2016, ballot initiative aimed at legalizing the adult use of marijuana, while a separate measure to amend the state’s medical marijuana laws is also expected to be decided by voters (in 2014 the measure narrowly failed to meet the state’s 60% vote requirement). According to a Quinnipiac poll conducted last year, 88% of Florida residents support legalizing marijuana for medical use and 55% of residents support legalizing the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana.

    It’s clear that Florida residents are fed up with policies that treat those who possess marijuana as criminals and are looking to their local governments to lead the way in reforming these policies. NORML encourages you to contact your local city commissioners and urge them to consider adopting decriminalization policies in your communities.

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