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Decriminalization

  • by Dan Viets, Executive Director, Missouri NORML November 17, 2018

     

    Two years after suing to keep medical marijuana off the ballot, on Tuesday, Jean Peters Baker, the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney, announced that her office will stop prosecuting most marijuana possession cases. In June of this year, the St. Louis City Prosecuting Attorney, Kim Gardner, took similar action on simple possession cases of up to 100 grams.

    This development follows the November 6 landslide victory of Amendment 2, a state Constitutional amendment, which legalized access to medical marijuana for Missouri patients in a form similar to laws already passed in 31 other states. Missouri voters supported this measure by 66% statewide. Amendment 2 received more yes votes than any of the other issues on that ballot and any candidates on that ballot.

    Approximately 75% of the voters in Jackson County endorsed Amendment 2. In April of 2017, Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved passage of a city ordinance reducing punishment for possession of marijuana to a $25 fine. That initiative, placed on the ballot by members of NORML KC, also received support from 75% of the voters, despite the campaign having almost no money and being opposed by The Kansas City Star and at least one former prosecuting attorney on the Kansas City Council.

    The decision by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to cease prosecuting most marijuana possession cases is all the more interesting when one considers the fact that only two years ago, Ms. Peters Baker joined with a handful of other Missouri prosecuting attorneys to sue the Missouri Secretary of State to keep medical marijuana off the ballot! That lawsuit did not succeed in keeping the measure off the ballot, but it did create an additional hurdle and a distraction for the campaign. The 2016 effort ultimately failed because it fell short of the number of petition signatures required in one of Missouri’s eight Congressional districts.

    Smart politicians around the state will surely soon recognize that a solid majority of Missouri voters favor progressive marijuana law reforms. NORML hopes to see this fact reflected in the actions of the Missouri General Assembly. Pre-filing of bills in the legislature begins December 1. The legislature convenes its 2019 session the first week of January. NORML calls on other Missouri Prosecutors to follow the example of the St. Louis City and Jackson County Prosecutors.

    For More Information Contact Dan Viets, 573-819-2669 or DanViets@gmail.com

    Keep up-to-date with marijuana law reform efforts in Missouri by following Missouri NORML on Facebook and become a member today!

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML October 15, 2018

    One Year Anniversary

    October 2nd, 2018 marked the one year anniversary of the unanimous passage of Atlanta City Ordinance 17-O-1152, which reduced the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana within the city limits of Atlanta to $75.00 and no jail time.  While this ordinance isn’t a true “decrim” bill, because those arrested are still being fingerprinted, it was a great step toward sensible marijuana legislation here in Georgia.

    Curiosity

    I wanted to know just what effect 17-O-1152 had on “simple possession” arrests in Atlanta.  After all, the ordinance didn’t make it “legal”, it just reduced the penalties.  It didn’t really even “decrim”.  APD officers are still free to arrest offenders and take them to jail.  The question burned in my mind; “Did they, or did they use 17-O-1152 as a justification to act on a moral conviction?“.  I knew where to find at least a clue to the answer.

    ACDC — No, Not the Band

    I have to hand it to the folks in the Records Department of the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC).  I’ve asked them for data several times and they are always quick to respond.  It seems I even have a nickname with them.  More on that later …. maybe.

    So last week I asked them to provide me with the following data, which they promptly did.  I’ve added their response in blue:

    a) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  2136

    b) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  952

    c) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  683

    d) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  252

    The Inference

    To sum it up, personal-use possession arrests fell from 3088 to 935 the first year after implementation of this ordinance.  When you do the math, that’s a 69.8% reduction.  So consider these factors:

    • 17-O-1152 was not directed to the Atlanta Police Department, rather to the Municipal Court.
    • APD officers can still arrest
    • Folks in the Metro live it like it’s legal anyway

    I searched through APD’s Standard Operating Procedures and didn’t find a mention of reducing the emphasis on simple possession arrests, so that doesn’t seem to be a factor.  Chief Shields may have issued an internal memo to that effect, but I’ve found no evidence of it, and I’m fairly certain that would have made its way into print somewhere.  She did say publicly during the hearings associated with 17-O-1152 that possession of small amounts was not high on the APD’s priority list, and that certainly has to be taken into consideration.

    So what can we deduce from this information?  I think it’s simply this; Nearly 70% of cops in Atlanta really don’t have a problem with NOT arresting marijuana users and now that they have an opportunity to exercise their moral discretion, they are doing so.  I think that’s significant.

    Too Optimistic?

    I’m optimistic by nature.  I’m always looking to what’s around the corner, to what the positive, rather than the negative outcome of a situation can be.  When this ordinance was passed many of you in the marijuana movement in Georgia cast aspersions on it.  You felt like it was a hollow gesture, with no substance, and that it wouldn’t make a difference.  Well, apparently you were wrong.  ‘Nuff said.

    So now I’m excited to see how this pans out in Savannah, South Fulton, Fulton County, Forest Park, and Kingsland as they reach the anniversary dates of their “decrim” ordinances.  We already know that Clarkston’s City Council and Mayor Ted Terry were the first to enact such an ordinance, and their program is working well.

    I’m also interested, as we all should be, in whether or not our State Legislators are listening …. or rather, who they are listening to.  This is The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association’s (GSA) position on marijuana  posted boldly on the front page of their website:

    “The position of the GSA concerning marijuana and medical cannabis is as follows:

    • OPPOSE the legalization of marijuana for all social, recreational or industrial purposes.
    • OPPOSE the cultivation of marijuana for all purposes.
    • SUPPORT the use of chemicals derived from cannabis for medical use for certain well defined serious health conditions.
    • OPPOSE the medical delivery or application of chemicals derived from cannabis plants through smoking.
    • OPPOSE legislative proposals where appropriate controls and security measures do not exist and where strict civil and criminal penalties are absent.

    The Executive Vice President of the GSA is a paid lobbyist.  Sheriffs and other law enforcement execs are always telling us, “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce them” and “If you don’t want us enforcing the law, get it changed.”  How are we supposed to do that when phrases like “Danger, danger” and “slippery slope” and “gateway drug” are constantly being whispered in our law-makers’ ears by a paid lobbyist?  Get out of our way and we WILL change the law.  We’re going to change it anyway.  It’s now a matter of when not if.  Your Rank and File support it.  I know.  I talk to them.

    I also find it telling that the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t even mention it on their website.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, fighting for the rights of Georgian cannabis consumers. You can visit their website at www.peachtreenorml.org, follow their work on Facebook and Twitter, and please make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 26, 2018

    Following the lead of municipalities around the state, the City Council of Kingsland, Georgia, voted to approve a new ordinance to ease penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

    “I’m glad to see the Kingsland City Council unanimously approve this ordinance. They join Clarkston, Atlanta, Savannah, Forest Park, South Fulton and Fulton County in enacting sensible marijuana ordinances here in Georgia,” said Tom McCain, executive director of Peachtree NORML.  

    Citing concerns of racial profiling and the effects of the black market regarding teen access and use, Councilman Mike McClain was one of the most vocal proponents during Monday’s meeting to discuss the proposal.

    “There is a definite amount of racial profiling with the outdated law. We need to be on the right side of history, and I want to do the right thing,” said Mclain. “We are a small town, but we are not afraid of change when it goes to correctly police our community.”

    Read more here: https://www.allongeorgia.com/camden-local-news/kingsland-city-council-passes-relaxed-marijuana-rule/

    As state lawmakers around the country continue to drag their feet on marijuana law reforms, municipalities are taking matters into their own hands. As a result, more than 50 localities in a dozen states have adopted municipal ordinances to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    “While they cannot change Georgia Law, they can indeed lower penalties for simple possession, and in doing so, send a message to the General Assembly that it needs to follow suit at the state-level,” added McCain.

    Click Here to Review NORML’s Decriminalization Report

    To learn more about marijuana law reforms in Georgia, follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook, and Twitter or check out their website!

    Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 20, 2018

    With a state legislative session spanning almost an entire calendar year, supporters of marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania are working overtime to make sure their voices are heard. That’s why members of Lehigh Valley NORML, Pittsburgh NORML, Lancaster NORML and Philly NORML are teaming up with the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and ACLU of Pennsylvania for rally and lobby day next week in the state’s capital of Harrisburg.

    Click Here to RSVP Today!

    “Marijuana activists in Pennsylvania are poised to introduce an aggressive agenda for reform in 2019 when they fill the Capitol Rotunda at 10am on Monday, September 24,” said Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. “With cannabis arrest counts rising across the state and neighboring states threatening legalization, the time is right for this discussion in Pennsylvania.”

    But activists in the Keystone State have come a very long way in just a short amount of time.

    Local Victories

    In late 2014 Philadelphia’s city council decriminalized simple possession of marijuana. Little did they know, their decision would trigger a wave of municipalities across the Commonwealth to adopt similar measures. In the years following, local lawmakers in Pittsburgh, State College, Harrisburg, York, Erie, and most recently, Bethlehem followed suit.

    These local victories were celebrated not just by advocates, but also the Commonwealth’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who shared the following statement:

    “Decriminalization saves millions of dollars spent yearly on marijuana prosecutions. Decriminalization also has human benefits by reducing the loss of income and other social, personal and emotional impacts on those arrested for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.”

    Full statement here: https://bit.ly/2NvfopR

    Statewide Victories

    Following the flurry of local marijuana law reform victories across the Commonwealth, lawmakers in Harrisburg passed SB 3: The Medical Marijuana Act in 2015 which was later signed into law by Governor Wolf in early 2016. Passage of the law established rules and regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program which permits registered patients to access cannabis oils, pills and tinctures, but due to a restriction against smoking, the availability of marijuana flower was delayed.

    After months of pressure from patients and advocacy groups, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana advisory board recommended several updates to the state’s program. One of which, was allowing the sale of marijuana flower. The catch? It must be consumed using a vaporizer. This means no smoking. Regardless of a few hiccups, dispensaries began serving patients earlier this year.

    Looking ahead, advocates are hoping to educate state lawmakers about the benefits of ending the criminalization and harassment of honest, hardworking Pennsylvanians for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.

    “New legislation will be introduced at the rally, as 2019 will mark the first time that PA will have partner bills for decriminalization and legalization in both House and Senate. If Pennsylvanians could vote on cannabis legalization in November, I am confident that we would win,” added Riedy.

    Midterm Election

    Considering Pennsylvania is one of several states that lacks a ballot initiative process, all marijuana law reform efforts must be pursued through the state legislature. This means, in order to be successful, advocates must educate those who are willing to listen or elect new, more supportive lawmakers to represent them in Harrisburg. So make no mistake, the outcome of this November’s election will certainly have an impact on the future of marijuana in the Keystone State.  

    Register To Vote Today!

    That’s why we’re encouraging voters in Pennsylvania to support Jon Fetterman, an outspoken supporter of legalizing marijuana, who is running for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Fetterman was the very first candidate endorsed by NORML PAC for the 2018 midterm elections.

    Read more about our endorsement here: https://bit.ly/2OMBjoM

    For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Lehigh Valley NORML on Twitter and Facebook!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 30, 2018

    Democrat Gov. John Carney signed legislation into law today vacating past marijuana convictions.

    Senate Bill 197, which took immediate effect, “provides mandatory expungement eligibility to individuals who were convicted of the possession [of one ounce or less], use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware’s decriminalization of these offenses.”

    State lawmakers in 2015 enacted legislation reducing the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal act to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record.

    To be eligible for expungement under the new law, the defendant must have no other criminal convictions on their record.

    In recent years, lawmakers in several states – including Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island – have enacted similar expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization. In California, legislation providing for mandatory expungement of past marijuana convictions is awaiting the Governor’s signature. An estimated 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the proposed law.

    According to a nationwide poll released in June, 73 percent of Americans support the enactment of legislation “to automatically seal the records of individuals convicted of crimes related to the possession of marijuana.”

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