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Decriminalization

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate March 18, 2019

    A.1617, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), has been re-introduced this legislative session. The bill would legalize the adult possession, use, and regulated sale of marijuana.

    Over the past twenty years, many New Yorkers have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition in New York. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually, the MRTA directs the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana to these communities. Because structural racism is ingrained in marijuana prohibition, it’s important that the MRTA both ends marijuana prohibition and promotes racial justice.

    Significant steps are taken in the amended MRTA to ensure racial justice and a small business-friendly industry, including:

    • Creating a micro-licensing structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, which allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
    • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
    • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.

    Our communities can’t wait. The decades of marijuana prohibition had created a stain on the fabric of our society, and urgent action is needed to begin to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs. Adult-use cannabis legalization must be passed in the state budget, and support for the MRTA goes a long way towards making that a reality. Freedom simply cannot wait any longer.

    Click here to send a message to your New York State Assemblymember in urgent support of this effort.

     

    We also encourage you to plug in with Empire State NORML. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and visit their webpage HERE.

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  • by NORML March 15, 2019

    Minor marijuana possession offenders will no longer be criminally prosecuted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, according to a new policy announced Thursday by County Attorney Mike Freeman. An estimated 1.2 million people live in the County, which includes the city of Minneapolis.

    Commenting on the new policy, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Hennepin County Attorney is to be commended for taking this proactive stance. Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals, and in some cases felons, for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose. This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

    Under the policy, prosecutors will not criminally charge anyone for marijuana offenses involving the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis. Rather, defendants will be ordered to complete a diversion program or partake in community service. Under state law, marijuana possession offenses involving over 42.5 grams are classified as felony offenses – punishable by up to a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

    Under special circumstances, such as if the defendant possessed a firearm or is a habitual offender, prosecutors may still file criminal charges.

    Freeman said the policy change was necessary because he believes that the state law is overly punitive and produces racial disparities in incarceration rates. “My job is to determine if people are charged and how to spend my resources,” Freeman said. “Spending resources on these cases is just wrong.”

    The County Attorney for Ramsey County (population 500,000), which includes the city of St. Paul, enacted a similar policy earlier this year.

    Similar actions have been taken in recent months by prosecutors in Baltimore, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Norfolk, among other metropolitan areas.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 8, 2019

    Lawmakers in several states have recently moved forward legislative proposals to either legalize or decriminalize marijuana-related activities. Here is a look at where some of these efforts currently stand.

    LEGALIZATION

    New Hampshire: By a margin of 209 to 147, House members voted late last week in favor of House Bill 481, which legalizes the possession and cultivate of personal use quantities of cannabis by adults, and establishes a licensed system of commercial production and retail sales. The measure awaits action in the Senate and faces opposition from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has pledged to veto any legalization bill, “regardless of what the language looks like.”

    New Mexico: Members of the House voted 36 to 34 in favor of HB 356, which establishes a system of licenses, state-run marijuana retailers. Members of the Senate have until March 16 to act on the bill.

    Vermont: Members of the Senate last week passed SB 54 by a vote of 23 to 5. The measure expands existing law to permit the state-licensed production and sale of cannabis to those age 21 or older. The measure now awaits action from members of the House.

    DECRIMINALIZATION:

    Hawaii: House members approved HB 1383, which removes criminal penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses (up to three grams) and expunges past criminal convictions. The measure now heads to the Senate.

    New Mexico: Members of the Senate on Tuesday voted 30 to 8 in favor of SB 323, which reduces possession penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis to a $50 fine and no criminal record. It now goes to the House for further action.

    OTHER REFORM BILLS

    Florida: Senate members this week overwhelmingly approved legislation, SB 182, to lift the ban on the smoking of medical cannabis and/or the possession of herbal formulations of the plant. House members are expected to address the measure on Wednesday.

    New Mexico: Members of the Senate overwhelmingly (33 to 2) passed SB 406 to expand greater medical access and to limit discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere against qualified patients. It now awaits action from the House.

    Virginia: Legislation is before the Governor to expand the pool of health professionals who can approve cannabis therapy to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The measure, SB 1557, also permits qualifying patients access to a broader spectrum of products containing both plant-derived CBD and THC.

    West Virginia: Legislation (HB 2538) to facilitate banking access for the medical cannabis industry is awaiting action from the Governor. If signed into law, it mandates that the “Commissioner of Financial Institutions shall not prohibit, penalize, incentivize, or otherwise impair a financial institution from providing services to a person or entity involved in a medical cannabis-related business.”

    For a complete summary of marijuana-specific bills pending statewide, visit NORML’s Legislative Action Center here.

  • by Tyler McFadden, NORML NE Political Associate February 28, 2019

    Here in New Hampshire, there has been a great deal of progress in the last few years. Several bills have been introduced in the state legislature, ranging from legal hemp production to adult-use marijuana legalization, and the fight for freedom has never been more widely supported than now. New Hampshire residents overwhelmingly support marijuana legalization; in a recent poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, 68% of New Hampshirites support full marijuana legalization, and the New Hampshire General Court is finally listening to the will of the people and is pushing for meaningful marijuana reform.

    There have been so far been eight major reform bills introduced in the New Hampshire General Court during the current legislative session.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB 481 would legalize the personal adult-use, possession, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana. It passed the House on 2/27/2019 by a vote of 209-147. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Senator in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB 399 would allow those convicted of past marijuana offenses to file a petition with the court to expunge any criminal records of the possession of three-fourths of an ounce of marijuana or less. This bill passed the House on 1/31 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Senator in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bills SB 175 and HB 461 would expand the qualifying conditions under New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program. S. 175 would allow physicians to recommend marijuana to any patient they believe would benefit from its therapeutic use, and HB 461 would allow physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from moderate to severe insomnia, moderate to severe anxiety, or Lyme disease. S. 175 was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee and HB 461 was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on these bills and to send a message to your State lawmakers in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB 459 would legalize the production of industrial hemp in the state of New Hampshire to be in compliance with current federal hemp regulations and establish rules for such production. It was referred to the Environment and Agriculture Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — HB 350 would expand the number of medical professionals eligible to recommend medical cannabis by allowing physician assistants to issue recommendations to qualified patients. It was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/02/2019, which recommended that the bill “ought to pass with amendment” and will soon be brought to the House floor for a vote.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — HB 335 would expand access to medical cannabis by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to authorize additional dispensaries licenses in certain geographic areas of New Hampshire. It has passed the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Senator in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — Bipartisan bill HB. 364 would permit qualified patients to grow up to fourteen marijuana plants (two mature and twelve seedlings) and to possess up to six ounces of homegrown medical cannabis for their personal use. It was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    — HB 366 would expand New Hampshire’s list of qualifying conditions for the State’s medical marijuana program to include opioid dependence and withdrawal. It was referred to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee on 1/03/2019.

    For more information on this bill and to send a message to your State Representative in support of this legislation, click here.

     

    Though reform is inevitable, it will not happen without activists such as yourself making your voices heard in the name of personal freedom. We need your help to keep fighting to legalize marijuana nationwide. Please send messages in support of the bills summarized herein to spur sensible marijuana reform in the Granite State.

  • 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!

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