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Virginia

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 7, 2017

    voteIt is once again election night in America. While 2017 doesn’t feature any statewide marijuana initiatives, there are still a number of races to watch tonight that will impact marijuana law reform efforts across the nation.

    Virginia Governor

    Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D): Democratic candidate, and current Lt. Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam has been outspoken in his support for ending criminal penalties for marijuana. Earlier this year, Northam published a letter calling for decriminalization and an expanded medical marijuana program.

    Northam wrote: “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement?—?money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.

    As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

    Ed Gillespie (R): Republican candidate, and former Republican National Committee Chair, Ed Gillespie has stated he does not support the legalization or outright decriminalization of marijuana believing it “sends the wrong signal” to children.

    Gillespie does support a very limited change to Virginia’s marijuana laws, that would move possession to a three strike system – dropping the possibility of jail time for an individual’s first two marijuana possession arrests, but retaining it for the third.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR VA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    New Jersey Governor

    Phil Murphy (D): Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has made marijuana legalization a priority issue in his campaign. In addition to publicly campaigning in support of ending marijuana prohibition in the state, in his primary election victory speech Murphy said he wants a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the Garden State on his desk within the first 100 days of taking office.

    “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Phil Murphy said the night he won the Democratic primary. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.

    Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R): Republican candidate, and current Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno has stated that she is “wholly opposed to legalizing marijuana” citing inaccurate information in regards to marijuana’s impact on driving.

    “I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” Guadagno said during a debate during the Republican primary.

    During the general election, she further stated her opposition, saying she believed legalization would “put a whole generation of children at risk.”

    “I don’t want our children, I don’t want our people to walk down the street and buy a pack of cigarettes and be drug dealers.”

    Despite her opposition to legalization, Guadagno has stated she would support decriminalization of possession and limited expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR NJ VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Athens, OH: Athens Cannabis Ordinance

    Residents of Athens, Ohio will have the ability to vote on the “Athens Cannabis Ordinance” which would significantly reform many of the penalties around marijuana possession and cultivation in the city. The ordinance would drop the fine for the following offenses to $0, effectively removing any criminal or civil punishment:

    • Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana and up to 10 grams of hash
    • Cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana
    • Gifts of up to 20 grams of marijuana
    • Possession and sale of paraphernalia

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATHENS, OH VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Atlanta Mayor (Note: If none of the candidates in tonight’s election receive more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off election this winter between the top two vote getters. Atlanta’s mayoral race is also non-partisan.)

    During the debate surrounding the now approved decriminalization bill in Atlanta, news outlet the AtlantaLoop got a majority of the mayoral candidates on record in regards to their views on marijuana penalties. The incoming mayor will oversee the implementation of this ordinance so it is important to have a supportive incoming mayor in power in 2018.

    Peter Aman, former Atlanta COO: “I support the deprioritization of marijuana enforcement and will work with the courts and the police department and community to examine a procedure focused on fines, rather than jail time. Criminal justice reform is not just a buzzword. It is a thoughtful approach to finding ways to ensure citizens do not carry a lifelong burden for instances that do not cause harm to the public. Equally important, deprioritization is a cost-saving measure on the courts and the public safety budget. It allows our officers to focus on crime fighting and keeping our communities safe.

    Also, I firmly believe, and research shows, marijuana use has clear impacts on the brain development of children and young adults. In addition to, or in lieu of other penalties, I will ask the courts to examine requiring individuals below a certain age to attend an educational course on the cognitive impacts of marijuana and to help them make informed choices in how, when, and where they use such a substance – as we do in case of abuse of alcohol use.”

    Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves: “It is high time that Atlanta City Council members and Mayor Kasim Reed stop talking, and start doing something on the issue of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Generally, that means these offenses are treated like a minor traffic violation: no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for a first-time possession.

    Unlike my opponents who have sat on their hands while our young people suffer, I have a track record of actually doing something about issues like this one. For example, as Fulton County Chairman, I pushed through the first-ever expungement program, to give people a second chance after arrests for minor offenses— including those never prosecuted. I also championed the successful Fulton County diversion program that has seen our jail population decrease and our recidivism rate drop dramatically.

    As a long-standing criminal justice, youth diversion and expungement advocate, my main concern is that for small amounts of marijuana possession, a person can have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. While we must be for law and order, we also must be fair. That means using best practices based on other local government experiences. For example, the Clarkston City Council, voted unanimously last year to reduce the fine from up to $1,000 to $75 for possessing less than an ounce, and eliminating the possibility of jail time. In the nation’s capital city of Washington, D.C., voters approved decriminalization for people over the age of 21.

    For a city as diverse as Atlanta, a decriminalization ordinance in this direction makes sense.

    As Atlanta’s next mayor, I will continue to make juvenile justice a top priority and will work to provide laws that are fair to everyone, no matter their zip code.”

    State Sen. Vincent Fort: “I’m talking about a ticket, a citation, I’m talking about no mugshot, no arrest. A citation, go on your way, pay.  Anywhere from $25, $50 to $75.

    Two, I am very concerned that there’s this confusion, quote-unquote confusion issue.  I’ve heard some city council members and some candidates for mayor talk about how people from the outside of the city would come in and think that they could smoke dope and there’d be no consequences.  That is a red herring.  Then there are some other people who have said, ‘Oh I’m not going to have quote-unquote blood on my hands,’ by virtue of the fact that they say, ‘Well there’s a kid who thinks he can smoke dope anywhere, any way he wants and he gets arrested because the officer has discretion … and they’ll resist arrest and thus you know blood’ll be on the hands of anyone who supports this.’ That’s just crazy, it’s absolutely crazy. It’s unfortunate that elected officials would engage in such mendacity, intentionally trying to create confusion on the issues.

    … [I]f there are all these cities all over the country including in the South, that can decriminalize marijuana, if tiny Clarkston can do it, the city of Atlanta can do it. The fact of the matter is, the city council and the mayor have been in power, in place, as well as the Fulton County Commission has been in place for years and young African American males … have been pushed into the entryway for mass incarceration and they [officials] have done nothing. And now that they have the chance to do it, they’re abdicating their responsibility.”

    Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall: “It is a high priority for my administration to be able to roll out an effective and well-communicated marijuana declassification, so [people are not] not excessively penalized for possession of less than an ounce.”

    Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood: “I want a dialog with the police department as to the impact of changing the city’s ordinance and what does to offenders and whether or not … the state law would then apply.  What we need is an understanding from the police department as to the steps that occur now and the steps that would occur for their police officers on the street with offenders with the changes.”

    Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell: “When I was a child being raised in this city, the last thing my father wanted to do as a police officer was to destroy the lives of young people.

    The time and effort spent apprehending and sending people to jail for this minor offense would be of better use to law enforcement in their pursuit of dangerous criminals. When police officers spend time on these offenses, jail cells end up filled with non-violent offenders, while repeat and violent offenders often go free.

    Atlantans deserve to have a city that encourages kids to reach their potential, not one that embraces punishment for every misstep.

    While usage rates are roughly the same across different races, statistics show that African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. For many Atlanta kids, it is a gateway to prison. We need to do everything we can to end a process that hurts our kids by serving as a fast track to incarceration”

    Two candidates, Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, did not respond to AtlantaLoop’s request for comment. However, it is worth noting that both serve on the Atlanta City Council, which unanimously approved teh decriminalization measure earlier this year. You can view their full article here.

     

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATLANTA, GA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Stay tuned…

    NORML will be covering the results of these elections throughout the evening on our blog and social media channels. Stay tuned for results and reactions later tonight.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 16, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesAfrican Americans in Virginia are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at more than three times the rates of whites and this disparity is rising, according to an analysis of statewide arrest data by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service.

    Researchers reviewed 160,000 state and local arrest records from the years 2010 through 2016. They found that blacks were 2.9 times as likely as whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana in 2010, but 3.2 times as likely to be arrested by 2016.

    In some counties and towns, such as in Hanover County and in Arlington, Virginia, the black arrest rate was six to eight times that of whites.

    The findings are similar to those of a 2015 report, which determined that the number of African Americans arrested in Virginia for marijuana possession offenses increased 106 percent between the years 2003 and 2014. That study concluded that blacks account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests, but comprise only 20 percent of the state population.

    A separate analysis of Maryland arrest data determined that African Americans accounted for 58 percent of all marijuana possession arrested despite comprising only 30 percent of the state’s population.

    A 2016 analysis of California arrest figures concluded that police arrested blacks for marijuana offenses at three and half times the rate of whites. A prior statewide assessment reported that police in 25 of California’s major cities arrested blacks for marijuana possession violations at rates four to twelve times that of caucasians. Similar disparities have been repeatedly reported in other major cities, including New York and Chicago.

    A 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study found that nationwide blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though both ethnicities consume the substance at approximately similar rates.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate April 8, 2016

    map_leafWe’ve got several legislative updates from around the country this week. Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform!

    State:

    Colorado: Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving toward normalizing the responsible, adult consumption of marijuana. The initiative would provide adults with a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded citizens — a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. You can show support for the initiative by liking their page on Facebook.

    Florida: On April 1st, the city of Tampa began implementing its new decriminalization law. Under the new ordinance, people caught with 20 grams or less of marijuana will now only face a civil citation rather than a arrest, criminal prosecution, and a criminal record.

    Also, The Florida Democratic Party has endorsed Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to permit the physician-authorized use and state-licensed distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The initiative has also received recent endorsements from the Tallahassee Democrat, the Miami Herald, and the Bradenton Herald. Presently, 16 states explicitly exempt the use of CBD by qualified patients. But, to date, no of these states provide a regulated, in-state supply source for the product.

    Maine: A superior court judge today overturned the Secretary of State’s ruling that a citizen petition seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine was invalid. The ruling mandates the Secretary of State to review the disputed signatures to determine whether petitioners submitted enough valid ones to qualify for ballot placement this November.

    Missouri: This week, regulators at the Missouri Department of Agriculture granted licenses to two applicants seeking to grow CBD-dominant cannabis. Their products are anticipated to be ready for distribution this fall to state-qualified patients.

    Pennsylvania: State lawmakers have unanimously passed separate pieces of legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp.” Members of the Senate voted 49 to zero in March in favor of SB 50. House lawmakers more recently voted 187 to zero in favor of the House companion bill, HB 967. House Bill 967 will now go to the Senate  for concurrence with SB 50 and then to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has expressed support for the legislation. #TakeAction

    Members of the Pittsburgh City Council have approved a new ordinance imposing more lenient penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses. Under this ordinance, marijuana-related offenses will now be classified as summary offenses, punishable by a fine of $100 for public smoking or $25 for the possession of a small amount of marijuana.

    Virginia: Governor Terry McAuliff has signed legislation, Senate Bill 701, into law to establish regulations governing the in-state production of therapeutic oils high in cannabdiol and/or THC-A (THC acid). Senate Bill 701 requires the Board of Pharmacy to adopt regulations establishing health, safety, and security requirements for pharmaceutical processors of oils high in CBD and/or THC-A. The measure takes effect on July 1, 2016.

    Don’t forget to join us in Washington D.C. May 23rd and 24th for our 2016 Congressional Lobby Day! Whether you are a longtime activist, a young college student, a medical marijuana patient, a social marijuana consumer, or just someone who opposes prohibition, this is an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from across the country and get a glimpse into the Capitol Hill lawmaking process. It is an exhilarating experience for anyone who has taken the time to come to DC to lobby their members of Congress. Get your tickets today!

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate March 11, 2016

    thumbs_upLegislative sessions around the country are moving quickly with several already coming to a close. It’s important to stay updated on pending measures in your state because NOW is the time to contact your elected officials using our #TakeAction Center urging their support for marijuana law reform. Keep reading to get this week’s latest legislative highlights!

    States:

    Florida: House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, House Bill 307, to permit medical marijuana access to people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Florida law already permits for the production of strains of cannabis high in CBD to be dispensed to qualified patients with cancer, muscle spasms, and intractable seizures. However, to date, this program has yet to be operational. House Bill 307 seeks to expand state-licensed medical marijuana production to also include strains dominant in THC. The measure now awaits action from Florida Governor Rick Scott.

    Maine: The Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a ballot initiative that is seeking to put the question of marijuana legalization before voters in the state this November, is suing the state of Maine for invalidating 26,779 signatures. The campaign had originally turned in 99,229 signatures from registered voters by the February 1st deadline in hopes of meeting the required number of 61,123 valid signatures to make the ballot. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap invalidated the signatures because the signature of the notary who signed the petitions allegedly did not match the signature on file with staff.

    Nebraska: Legislation remains pending, LD 643: the Cannabis Compassion and Care Act, to permit qualified patients to legally possess and cultivate cannabis. The measure permits patients permits patients to grow up to 12 plants and/or to possess up to six ounces of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The bill also establishes licensed compassion centers to provide cannabis to qualified patients. #TakeAction

    New York: Legislation has been introduced, A 9510, to expand the pool of medical professionals who can provide written recommendations for marijuana to qualifying patients. If passed, the legislation would allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners who are in good standing with the state to provide written certifications to qualifying patients. New York legalized medical marijuana in 2014, however the law is one of the most restrictive in the country. Patients may only use non-smokable forms of marijuana and many are struggling to find physicians who can certify them access to medical marijuana preparations. This pending legislation would increase the number of medical professionals eligible to participate in the program, thereby increasing access to those patients who so desperately need it. #TakeAction

    Oklahoma: House lawmakers have approved legislation, House Bill 2835, to expand the pool of patients eligible to possess cannabidiol (CBD) under a physician’s authorization. If passed, those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, chronic pain, neuropathic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to paraplegia, intractable nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases, and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or bipolar affective disorder would be allowed access to CBD. The bill now awaits Senate action. #TakeAction

    Utah: Lawmakers have adjourned for 2016 without taking action to expand medical cannabis access to seriously ill patients. Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee voted 8-4 on Monday, March 7, against the passage of Senate Bill 73, the Medical Cannabis Act. A separate measure, SB 89, was approved by members of a House committee however, lawmakers ultimately failed to back the measure, alleging that the law would be too expensive to implement.

    Vermont: Members of various House Committee are anticipated to begin taking testimony next week with regard to Senate Bill 241, to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Members of the Senate previously voted 17 to 12 in favor of the legislation, which is backed by Gov. Shumlin. Now the measure faces a potentially uphill battle in the House, starting with the House Judiciary Committee. It is vital that House representatives hear from you in support of SB 241. #TakeAction

    Virginia: Members of the House of Delegates and the Senate have decided in favor of Senate Bill 701, which permits for the in-state production of therapeutic oils high in cannabdiol and/or THC-A (THC acid). The Governor has untilApril 11 to act on the bill. #TakeAction

    Washington: Governor Jay Inslee decided on Wednesday, March 9th, to veto legislation, Senate Bill 6206, which sought to establish licensed hemp production. House and Senate lawmakers had previously approved legislation, which would have authorized “The growing of industrial hemp as a legal agricultural activity” in accordance with federal legislation permitting such activity as part of a state-authorized program.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate February 12, 2016

    map_leafWe’ve got news from all levels of government this week! International, federal, state, and local law reform changes are all being considered. Keep reading below to see if any pending reforms would affect you or your community!

    International:

    Tim Faron, leader of one of Great Britain’s main political parties, called for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use this week. He also announced that his party would be imminently releasing a report making the case for a legalized market for sales. The Liberal Democrats leader said: “I personally believe the war on drugs is over. We must move from making this a legal issue to one of health. The prime minister used to agree with me on the need for drug reform. It’s time he rediscovered his backbone and made the case again.”

    Federal:

    Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote a letter this week to the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the agency to research cannabis access as a potential mitigating factor in opioid abuse. Population data from states where medicinal cannabis is permitted report lower rates of opioid-abuse  and mortality as compared to those states where the plant is prohibited. Clinical data and case reports also indicate that the adjunctive use of cannabis may wean patients from opiates while successfully managing their pain. Survey data of state qualified medical cannabis patients indicate that subjects with access to the plant often substitute it for opioids because they perceive it to possess fewer adverse side effects.

    Also, Senate members this week introduced The Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act, or SUCCESS Act, which repeals language in the Higher Education Act that strips students of financial aid because of a past drug offense, and removes the drug conviction question from the FAFSA form. #TakeAction 

    State:

    California: The California Medical Association has officially endorsed the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, a pending statewide ballot initiative that seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use and sales in the state. The California Medical Association represents more than 41,000 physician members statewide. Additionally, the NAACP California chapter has also endorsed the initiative.

    Illinois: Legislation, HB 6199, is pending in the General Assembly to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the definition of ‘debilitating medical condition’ and to allow state-registered medical cannabis patients to retain gun ownership rights. #TakeActioncannabis_pills

    Mississippi: Senate legislation was introduced this week to permit qualified patients to legally possess and cultivate cannabis. Senate Bill 2358 permits patients with a “debilitating medical condition” to engage in marijuana therapy in accordance with a physician’s recommendation. The measure also reschedules marijuana under state law. #TakeAction

    New Mexico: Legislation opposed by NORML, HB 195 has narrowly passed the House of Representatives. The bill would prohibit workers compensation insurers from reimbursing employees who qualify for medical cannabis access for injuries sustained on the job. The measure now awaits Senate action. Please contact your Senate member today and urge him or her to vote ‘no’ on HB 195 and/or its companion measure SB 245. #TakeAction

    New Jersey: Legislation was introduced this week to end workplace discrimination against medical marijuana patients. Assembly Bill 2482, if enacted, would halt employers from taking adverse employment actions against authorized medical marijuana patients who engage in the plant’s use during their off-hours. #TakeAction

    Pennsylvania: A local decriminalization ordinance is being considered by the Harrisburg City Council. The council’s public safety committee plans to hold a public hearing on the matter in the coming weeks. If you live in Harrisburg, contact your City Council member and urge their support for this measure! We’ll keep you updated as this measure moves forward.

    Vermont: Members of the Senate are anticipated to decide imminently on legislation to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Media reports indicate that the floor vote could come the week of February 16. The vote is expected to be a close one; therefore, we are urging supporters to contact their Senate members over the coming days and to urge them to vote ‘yes’ for Senate Bill 241. If approved by the Senate, the bill will face further debate in the House. #TakeActionlegalization_poll

    Virginia: Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 327, to amend state law so that first time, minor marijuana offenders no longer face the loss of their driver’s license. Under existing law, marijuana possession offenses may be punishable by the loss of driving privileges, even in cases where the offense did not take place in a motor vehicle. Passage of SB 327 would end this practice. #TakeAction

    Washington D.C.: Members of the D.C. Counsel this week approved a measure that would prohibit potential employers in the District from testing applicants for marijuana until after they’ve made a conditional job offer. Councilmember Vincent Orange, who sponsored the measure said, “District residents shouldn’t have to worry about lost job opportunities just because they’ve smoked pot, especially now that the city has voted to legalize marijuana possession.” The measure is still under congressional review.

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