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Decriminalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 5, 2019

    Marijuana LawsDemocratic Gov. John Carney has signed legislation amending criminal penalties for juveniles who violate the state’s marijuana possession laws.

    Senate Bill 45 eliminates criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession offenses (up to one ounce) for those under the age of 21. Instead, juvenile offenders will face a fine-only civil penalty. Those with past criminal convictions for juvenile offenses will be eligible for the mandatory expungement of their records.

    The new law took effect upon signing.

    Lawmakers in 2015 enacted separate legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties for those over 21 years of age. However, that law left in place criminal sanctions for juvenile offenders.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director July 26, 2019

    The City of Jacksonville, Florida could join a growing list of cities around the country that have embraced a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. Currently more than a dozen Florida municipalities have decriminalized the possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana including: Alachua County, Broward County, Cocoa Beach, Hallandale Beach, Key West, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Orlando, Osceola County, Palm Beach County, Port Richey, Tampa, Volusia County, and West Palm Beach County.

    Jacksonville Residents Click Here to Send a Message to your Council Representatives 

    Citing concerns about the collateral consequences of a marijuana charge and the disproportionate impact marijuana prohibition continues to have on communities of color, Council Member Garrett Dennis recently introduced the, “Jacksonville Civil Citation for Small Quantity Marijuana Possession Ordinance.” If approved, the ordinance would impose a $100 fine for possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana instead of jail time. 

    “During my reelection campaign, I spoke to many citizens whose lives were thrown into a downward spiral due to possessing minimal amounts of marijuana. Families were in debt because of legal issues, loss of employment or the inability to secure gainful employment; based on these misdemeanor arrests,” said Council Member Dennis. 

    Read more from First Coast News

    To support this effort, Council Member Dennis has announced a series of community meetings. Each meeting is free to attend and open to the public. 

    Date:  Saturday, July 27, 2019                                         

    Time: 10:30 a.m.

    Location: South Mandarin Library, 12125 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32223

    Date: Monday, July 29, 2019

    Time: 6:00 p.m.

    Location: Bennie Furlong Senior Center, 281 19th Ave S, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

    Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2019    

    Time: 6:00 p.m.

    Location: Legends Center, 5130 Soutel Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32208

    Date: Monday, August 5, 2019  

    Time: 6:30 p.m.

    Location: Webb Wesconnett Library, 6887 103rd Street, Jacksonville, FL 32210

    Click Here to Review NORML’s Decriminalization Report

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  • by NORML July 10, 2019

    Marijuana HempMembers of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security heard expert testimony today challenging the federal government’s failed policy of cannabis prohibition. The hearing, entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” debated the merits of various alternative policy options – including abolishing cannabis’ longstanding Schedule I criminal status under federal law.

    The hearing marked the first time in decades that members have explicitly entertained debate regarding the need to end the federal criminalization of cannabis and to deschedule (remove) the plant from the Controlled Substances Act. You can watch the full hearing below:

    Witnesses testifying at yesterday’s hearing were Dr. David Nathan of the group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Marilyn Mosby, Esq., State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Dr. G. Malik Burnett (formerly of the Drug Policy Alliance), and Neal Levine, Chief Executive Officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation. Their written testimony is available online here.

    Members of Congress in attendance at the hearing included: Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ben Cline (R-VA), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Doug Collins (R-GA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), and Greg Stube (R-FL). Several members, including Reps. Cohen and Lieu, concurred with witnesses’ testimony that Congress should completely remove the cannabis plant from the federal Substances Act.

    Committee members were broadly united in their support for legislation to address federal prohibition in some form.

    In her opening comments, Committee Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA) said, “The war on drugs was racially biased from its inception and has been carried out in a discriminatory fashion with disastrous consequences for hundreds of thousands of people of color and their communities.”

    Other members echoed similar sentiments:

    “Marijuana should be an issue of personal choice and public health” – Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY)

    “I think marijuana should be completely taken out of the controlled substance act…Everything in politics seems impossible until it happens . . . Keep on fighting and I believe we can get this done.” – Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)

    “[Marijuana decriminalization] may be one of the very few issues upon which bipartisan agreement can still be reached in this session.” – Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)

    A coalition of social advocacy groups – including NORML, the ACLU, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, The Immigrants Legal Resource Center, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Center for American Progress – released a joint Statement of Principles to coincide with the hearing. The Statement, which was entered into the record, highlights legislative priorities and provides Congress with a roadmap for ending America’s ongoing policy of cannabis criminalization.

     Commenting on the hearing, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: “For the first time in a generation, members of Congress engaged in a candid conversation that acknowledged the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level.”

    He added: “The ongoing classification under federal law of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance – a categorization that treats it in the same manner as heroin – is intellectually dishonest and has been scientifically debunked. It is high time that Congress address this Flat Earth policy and move forward with a plan that appropriately reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status in America.”

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri added, “After nearly a century of prohibition, it is clear this policy has been an absolute failure and a national disgrace. All we have to show for the war we have waged on marijuana is the egregious harms it has wrought upon tens-of-millions of our fellow citizens. Congress must act swiftly and begin to remedy the pain caused by the criminalization of marijuana. The only real federal solution to this problem is the full descheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. This would allow us to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to the illicit market and allow state governments the opportunity to pursue alternative regulatory policies, free from the threat of federal intervention or prosecution. The American public is overwhelmingly ready to legalize marijuana, their elected officials in Washington need to finally start representing the will of the people.”

    (PS: Did you see that, in honor of this hearing and all the progress we are making, our board member Rick Steves is offering to match ALL donations this week up to $40,000? Help us keep the fight going and double your impact today by donating HERE.)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 1, 2019

    As of today, the personal possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Mexico is no longer be classified as a criminal offense.

    The new law reduces first-time penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor — formerly punishable by up to 15 days in jail — to a ‘penalty assessment,’ punishable by a $50 fine. Lawmakers passed legislation in April to change the law. Late last week, the Governor announced the formation of a new task-force to make policy recommendations with regard to 2020 legislation to legalize the adult use of cannabis.

    “This is a win for consumers and activists continuing to fight and reform the state’s marijuana laws,” says NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf. “The criminalization of patients and consumers is a failed public policy, and there is finally a more sensible alternative in place. New Mexicans, a disproportionate number of whom are black and brown, have faced arbitrary discrimination and stigmatization for far too long.”

    Police in New Mexico made over 3,600 marijuana possession arrests in 2016.

    Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use of marijuana.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 27, 2019

    State lawmakers late last week advanced legislation to the Governor’s desk amending marijuana possession penalties and establishing procedures for the automatic expungement of prior, low-level cannabis convictions.

    The legislation, Assembly Bill 8420-A, reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession violations (up to one ounce) to a $50 fine. It also amends penalties for offenses involving the possession of more than one ounce but less than two ounces of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation punishable by a $200 fine – regardless of an offender’s prior criminal history. Under existing law, the possession of over 25 grams of marijuana is punishable by up to three months in jail.

    The measure further amends the classification of offenses involving the use or possession of marijuana in public from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, to a fine-only offense. In New York City alone, police typically made tens of thousands of marijuana arrests annually under the ‘public view’ exception. Over 87 percent of those charged with the crime were either Black or Latino.

    Finally, A. 8420-A establishes procedures to allow for the automatic expungement of criminal records specific to crimes involving the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana.

    While several lawmakers expressed disappointment that members failed to move forward a more expansive legalization proposal, they acknowledged that the changes proposed in Assembly Bill 8420-A are an important first step. “The drug laws that are currently on the books have devastated our communities by disproportionately targeting people of color, forcing them to live with a criminal record that makes it harder to get a job or find housing,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. “Decriminalizing marijuana, paired with expunging records for these low-level offenses, will help undo some of these decades-long injustices, and allow for people to be productive and successful. This is not the final step, but it will lay the groundwork for full decriminalization and legalization in the future.”

    statement issued jointly by various New York NORML affiliates states that the proposed changes fail to either adequately address “the legacy of harm from prohibition and targeted enforcement” or provide “a pathway forward to a more equitable future. … Our legislators and Governor Cuomo have failed in that regard, and have sent a message to New Yorkers that racial and economic justice are not priorities for them.”

    The measure takes effect 30 days after it is signed into law by the Governor.

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