Polling data released this week by Public Policy Polling shows a large base of support for marijuana law reforms in New Hampshire. Not only is there majority support from New Hampshire voters for the medical use of marijuana and decriminalizing its possession, but more than half support regulating and taxing marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
When asked if they would support or oppose changing New Hampshire law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, where stores would be licensed to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older, 53% responded they would support this law and only 37% were opposed.
62% stated that they would support a change in the law to provide for a fine of up to $100 without jail time or the threat of arrest for those who possess an ounce or less of marijuana and 68% support allowing for its physician supervised use. Even more enlightening, 52% stated an elected official’s support of medical marijuana made them more likely to support them.
Fortunately for New Hampshire lawmakers, they have the opportunity to capitalize on this groundswell of support for sensible marijuana laws. Legislation has already been introduced to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and a separate measure has been introduced to allow patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. The incoming governor has even voiced her support for legalizing medical use.
If you live in New Hampshire, you can use NORML’s Take Action to easily contact your elected officials in support of these measures. Click here to view our alert for decriminalization and here for medical use.
You can view the full polling data here.
Arresting and prosecuting low level marijuana offenders in New York City has little or no impact on law enforcement efforts to reduce violent crime, according to a study released today by Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy organization that focuses on human rights violations worldwide.
The study’s authors reviewed data from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services to track the criminal records of nearly 30,000 people who had no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession in public view [NY State Penal Law 221.10] in 2003 and 2004. Researchers assessed whether those arrested for minor marijuana violations engaged in additional, more serious criminal activity in the years following their arrest.
They reported: “[W]e found that 3.1 percent of [marijuana arrestees] were subsequently convicted of one violent felony offense during the six-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half years that our research covers; 0.4 percent had two or more violent felony convictions. That is, 1,022 persons out of the nearly 30,000 we tracked had subsequent violent felony convictions. Ninety percent (26,315) had no subsequent felony convictions of any kind.”
New York City police arrest more people for possessing small amounts of marijuana in public view than for any other offense, the study found. Between 1996 and 2011, police made more than half-a-million (586,320) arrests for this misdemeanor, including a total of around 100,000 in just the 2 years of 2010 and 2011. Of those arrested, the overwhelming majority are either Black or Latino and under 25 years of age.
Investigators concluded: “[T]he rate of felony and violent felony conviction among this group of first-time marijuana arrestees appears to be lower than the rate of felony conviction for the national population, taking into account age, gender, and race. … Neither our findings nor those of other researchers indicate the arrests are an efficient or fair means for identifying future dangerous felons.”
Under New York state law, the private possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. By contrast, the possession of any amount of cannabis in public view is a criminal misdemeanor.
In June, Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged lawmakers to close the ‘public view’ loophole. That effort was ultimately quashed by, Senate majority leader, Republican Dean Skelos, who argued, “Being able to just walk around with ten joints in each ear, and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong.”
In October, Gov. Cuomo reiterated his support for amending the state’s marijuana laws. Speaking a the New York State Trooper Class of 2012 graduation ceremony, Cuomo said that he “would not consider” convening a special legislative session unless lawmakers were willing to consider reforms to reduce New York City’s skyrocketing marijuana arrest rates.
While the discussion of marijuana policy may be noticeably absent from the current dialogue in the presidential race, one prominent Democratic Party member is not backing down on his push to reform his state’s marijuana laws.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has redoubled his efforts to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in public view after state legislators failed to act on the measure before the end of this year’s session. Amid discussions of a pay increase for legislators, Governor Cuomo told reporters this morning that, “I would not even consider, even consider a pay raise, unless the people’s business was being done in a thorough, responsible way.”
Included in his definition of “the people’s business” is the decriminalization of marijuana he had championed earlier in the year, along with an increase in New York’s minimum wage.
There have been talks about the legislature reconvening for a special session in the state after election day and before the start of next year’s session in January, but the governor made clear he would not sign off on their desired pay raise without action on these reform efforts.
“I understand they may have an interest in a pay raise. I’m interested in a people’s agenda and that’s what the session would be about,” stated Gov. Cuomo.
It is refreshing to see such a prominent sitting politician stand up for sound marijuana reform. New York’s current failed policy has cost the state around $75 million a year to arrest about 50,000 people for small amounts of marijuana, 85% of whom were people of color. This policy disproportionately targets the most vulnerable in our society and we applaud Governor Cuomo for taking a strong stance on this important issue. We can only hope other elected officials take notice and follow suit.
UPDATE: New York City Council Member for Council District 8, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has released a statement applauding the Governor’s action:
I commend New York Governor Cuomo for urging the State Legislature to adopt what he calls ‘The People’s Agenda,’ which includes an end to unjust small-quantity marijuana arrests, before they consider a potential salary hike for legislators.
I strongly support this principled act of leadership in the face of a hostile Republican State Senate which in the last session blocked legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. This inaction has led to thousands more unjust stop-and-frisk arrests of young men of color when they are told to empty their pockets during stops. Enforcement of this policy costs the city an estimated $75 million each year.
The new law would make marijuana possession merely a violation, like a traffic ticket, and not a crime that the police can arrest people for committing. Since there are currently over 50,000 annual stop-and-frisk arrests for small-time marijuana possession in NYC, this will dramatically reduce the unjust criminalization of our youth. Earlier this year, the New York City Council passed a resolution in support of this legislation, which I sponsored, and Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have voiced their support of these reforms. The Commissioner even issued a directive to officers intended to slow down the number of marijuana arrests. Still, it is essential to codify this policy change at the State level, and I thank Governor Cuomo for taking this issue so seriously. – Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito (source)
Marijuana law reform legislation is pending in over twenty states, and progressive measures have been pre-filed in many more. Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — activists’ one-stop guide to pending marijuana law reform legislation around the country.
** 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.
Massachusetts: State lawmakers have reintroduced legislation, HB 1371, that seeks to legalize and regulate the “production, distribution, and sale” of marijuana to adults. The measure has been referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. You can learn more about how to support this legislation by contacting MassCann, NORML’s Massachusetts affiliate here. You can also contact your House and Senate members and urge them to support legalization by going here.
Washington: On Tuesday, February 8, members of the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness heard testimony in favor of HB 1550, which allows for the state-authorized cultivation and distribution of marijuana and marijuana-related products. You can view archived video from this hearing here. The Committee is anticipated to vote on this measure on Friday, February 18. Last year the members of this Committee rejected a similar measure by a 6 to 2 vote. Urge them this year to vote ‘yes.’ You may contact the members of this Committee here or contact your individual House member here.
Hawaii: Members of the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary and Labor and members of the Senate Committee on Health on Friday, February 4 voted in favor of Senate Bill 1460, which reduces the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine) to a civil violation punishable by a fine of not more than $100. You can read NORML’s testimony in support of the bill here. You can contact your state lawmakers in support of the measure here.
Maryland: Over 20 members of Maryland’s House of Delegates are backing legislation, HB 606, to reduce the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1000 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $100 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. House Bill 606 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, February 22nd at 1pm. You may contact the members of the Committee here. You can follow the progress of HB 606 on Facebook here. If you reside in Maryland, you can contact your Delegate in support of this legislation by clicking here.
Indiana: Members of the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters on Tuesday voted 5 to 3 in favor of Senate Bill 192, which calls for a legislative review to be conducted by the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee later this year. The measure now awaits action from the full Senate. You can contact your state Senator and urge him or her to endorse the measure by clicking here. Additional information on this and other marijuana law reform efforts in Indiana is available from Indiana NORML here or on Facebook here.
Montana: Bad news to report from Montana. On Thursday, February 10, members of House of Representatives voted 63 to 37 for HB 161, which would repeal the state’s existing medical cannabis law. The measure must be reapproved during a final House vote (third reading), which will likely take place imminently. If approved by the House, the measure then goes before the Senate. There has never been a single state medical marijuana law that has been repealed. Do not let Montana be the first. Please make sure that your state elected officials heard from you. You can contact him or her via the Montana NORML website here or via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here. You can also visit Patients and Families United Facebook page here for up-to-date information on pending hearings and votes.
To be in contact with your state officials regarding these measures and other pending legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action Center here.
Marijuana law reform bills are now pending in nearly two dozen states. Here is this week’s summary of pending state legislative activity and tips on how you can become involved in changing the marijuana laws in your area.
Montana: Lawmakers introduced a measure this week to make minor marijuana offenses a civil violation. House Bill 541 would amend state law so that the possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to six -months in jail) to a $50 fine. The proposal is now before the House Judiciary, which is expected to hear testimony in favor of the bill in March. You can show your support for HB 541 by going here. Similar pot decriminalization proposals are pending in Vermont, Washington, and Hawaii.
Update!!! Update!!! Update!!! In related Montana news, the Senate is now anticipated to vote on SB 326, and act to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, by the end of this week. For more information, please contact Montana Patients and Families United here.
Kentucky: Kentucky legislators are trying to misuse the state’s traffic safety laws to target adults who use marijuana responsibly in the privacy of their own home. It’s up to us to stop them. This week, Senators approved SB 5, which seeks to criminalize anyone who operates a motor vehicle with any detectable level of marijuana in their blood. Under the strict interpretation of this standard, responsible marijuana consumers who last used cannabis days earlier could still be potentially arrested and prosecuted for ‘drugged driving’ — even if they are completely sober. NORML recently testified against a similar proposal in New Hampshire, which legislators rightfully dismissed as improper and illogical. Please help us derail SB 5 in Kentucky by contacting the members House Judiciary Committee and urging them to vote ‘no’ on 5.
New Jersey: The Senate is expected to vote on Monday, February 23, on Senate Bill 119, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. If passed, this measure would make New Jersey the fourteenth state to allow for the physician-supervised use of medicinal cannabis. Governor Jon Corzine backs the measure, as do many of the state’s largest newspapers. Residents in New Jersey are strongly encouraged to write or call their senators now and urge them to vote ‘yes’ on SB 119.
Washington: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony this week in favor of Senate Bill 565 — an act to reclassify the possession of forty grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a class 2 civil infraction. You can read about the hearing here, and urge the Committee to back the measure by going here.
To learn about additional pending legislation in Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, please visit NORML’s Legislative Action Alerts page here.